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Policy paper

Social Protection as a Pathway to Sustaining Peace

20 March 2024 — By FAO

Global crises are becoming the new normal. From climate change to the contemporary food price crisis, vulnerable populations – and especially rural people – are facing increasingly difficult odds of flourishing. Such challenges are even more pronounced where there is conflict, whose multidimensional nature demands to direct more attention to its drivers and impacts.

Over the past decades, social protection has contributed to development outcomes, such as those related to poverty reduction, food and nutrition security, and gender equality. Besides, social protection systems have proven to be effective also in addressing covariate shocks, as exemplified by the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There has instead been limited operational research regarding social protection’s contributions to peace. In order to start addressing this gap, this paper discusses how social protection can sustain peace efforts by understanding peace not as an outcome but, rather, as an ongoing process.

The paper argues that the contributions that social protection can make to peace can be divided between two overlapping scenarios: “working in conflict” and “working on conflict”. While the former refers to efforts aimed at offsetting the impacts of conflict, the latter relates to interventions that intend to deliberately address its underlying drivers.

The paper also recognizes that social protection interventions in a conflict-affected context can potentially be harmful and fuel social tensions in the absence of adequate consideration of local power dynamics. It therefore calls for social protection strategies to be conflict-sensitive – beyond the “do no harm” – to make explicit contributions to peace.